Week 10: 海辺のカフカ - Kafka on the Shore 🏖

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Week 10


Start Date: July 30th
Previous Part: Week 9
Next Part: Week 11


Week Start Date Chapters Page Count
Week 10 July 30th 19, 20 51

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Just finished chapter 19, where we had the reveal of the century: Oshima is a gay trans man :exploding_head: Ok, the gay part was shining through already, but I would never have expected that. Murakami piles it on once again :upside_down_face: Anyways, I really liked how he rebuffed the two ladies. “Lack of imagination”, that’s pretty much to the point in my opinion.


Chapter 20 is done as well. I must say I’m really proud of Nakata! Going out all by himself (the question is, what drives him? :thinking:) but anyways he carries out his plan. And then he takes on the rocker gang and defends the young man. When I read that he got flashbacks of the Johnny Walker scene, I was actually fearing the worst for him and for the rockers :cold_sweat: Having them showered in leeches was actually a really mild punishment, I think. I’m just surprised where this new skill comes from? As now it’s apparent that he did not only sense the shower of fishes in advance, he actually created it (I suspect it was done as compensation to the cats for the evil that Johnny Walker brought about them). And interestingly at the end he seems to remember his past? As he mentions that he was in Yamanashi during the war. So I guess my suspicion that his head might get better was somewhat on the right track?

By the way somebody asked at some point where the Rice Bowl Hill was located, and whether it could be the same mountain as the one Kafka was on? I checked the start of chapter 2 (page 26), where it is stated that two military persons investigated the case at hand in Yamanashi Prefecture. First I was not sure whether they just did the investigation in that place, or whether it actually means that the incident happened there. But chapter 20 indicates that the latter seems to be the case. So it cannot be the same place as Kafka’s mountain hut was in Kouchi Prefecture in Shikoku.


Chapter 19 made me dislike Oshima… Maybe the ordering of authors in a library isn’t the most serious problem in the whole world, but when were things ever solved by Whataboutism, “look how many literary classics I can reference” and “I’m physically a woman so I can’t be sexist”?

I didn’t expect the gender thing at all, though. Interesting developments, I wonder how or if it will influence the story.

Chapter 20 was cute. I’m loving all the truck drivers. I wonder if Nakata is headed for the library?


Re Chapter 19: While in the beginning it felt to me like Murakami wanted to show us how much he dislikes feminists, I must say that Oshima had a strong point in saying that rules should be applied with a sense of proportion… like what is the point of the library to have separate toilets when they have about 3 visitors per week? :woman_shrugging: Also I guess they only have one toilet in a separate room anyway, so where is the point of “women are in danger of being harrassed” if they can just lock the door and nobody can peek over or under compartment walls anyway. I was surprised that he did not come up with that. I also liked how he made them contradict themselves to demonstrate the pointlessness of the discussion. And the final conversation with Kafka showed what his real point was - not to be anti-feminist but to be anti-narrow-minded.
But I fully agree with you that those discussions are not solved by mansplaining philosophers or smugly pulling out the female ID card. That left a bit of a sour aftertaste to this otherwise interesting discussion.

Yeah, that was really cute! Truck driver comes up with big simile, Nakata takes it by face value, truck driver does not bat an eye and responds at Nakata’s level. I wonder how many people would have this amount of composure in real life?

Ooooo, that would be :exploding_head: Let’s see what happens when he arrives in Kobe :slight_smile:


Sure, I didn’t mind his argument there, and I also don’t quite see the reasoning behind needing to have separate toilets when it’s just a single room anyway. But bringing up Jumbo Jets is so… what? The bathrooms in planes are a single closed-off space as well! Which is literally an argument he could have used! He could have just stayed with the argument that “we’re a small library, we don’t have the funds, we haven’t had any complaints yet”. Or even throw in a “what about non-binary people”. Which is perfectly fine reasoning. But when he started to mention unrelated things, of course the women feel like he’s making fun of them. Oshima’s arguments somehow felt very provocative on purpose. Them leaving in the end also didn’t feel like he “won” the argument either.

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Yes, that’s what I meant, I don’t see why he did not simply go along that route.

Yes, totally agree with you on that.

I think the main reason here for this episode is that Murakami wanted to share his world view on this topic, which I appreciate and which I more or less follow (or at least I follow what I read into it ^^), I just found his means a bit needlessly convoluted and off-putting.


Finally read the chapters within the time frame!!

Chapter 19: I felt similarly to you guys here. Didn’t love the portrayal of the two women in the story, since “the extreme and annoying feminist” is an easy trope. I though Murakami would pull it off somehow in the end, but instead he surprised us with Oshima being trans!

It’s a shame in my opinion… If the two woman were more sophisticated characters, Oshima winning by being an outlier to those woman’s biases would have been soooo satisfying. As it was, it just feels like a clumsy device plot to help us get to know him better (which was the saving grace of this chapter).

Chapter 20: Am I the only one here worried for Nakata? There’s this feeling that overtakes him, something he can’t suppress… So far it seems to be protecting him, but still I’m worried about what all this darkness will do to him.

I did love all of the truck drivers and their personalities. Learning about a bunch of creepy-crawlies was not in the plan for today, but could be useful! Speaking of, did anyone else not immediately know what a こもり傘 was?

Last thought… Nakata not knowing how to ride the trains, wondering what’s in the trucks since he can’t read, and relying on the kindness of strangers… this whole experience just reminds me of not being able to read when first moving to Japan.

I accidentally read the first bold text for the next chapter… :caught_durtling: Can’t wait for the next week to be posted.


Not had much time to read for the last week so playing catch up today! Only just finished chapter 19 but I have too many thoughts so checking in here before continuing. Warning, this will be long, I have a lot of feelings about this chapter :sweat_smile:

I actually knew going into this book that there was a character that was a trans man, and suspected it might be Oshima as when I first mentioned I was thinking of reading this book my boyfriend was like “oh, I’ve read that, it’s the one where a kid runs away and lives in a library run by a trans guy, right? It was cool.” So the reveal didn’t come as a big shock to me, but some of the details of how the reveal happened kind of were??

I’m honestly really split on how I feel about this chapter, and I feel like some of that it cos I am a gay trans man so maybe not the most objective about some of this stuff and found it quite hard to separate from real world context that I’m pretty much 100% sure that Murakami wasn’t intending.

For example, I feel like the feminists came across really differently to me because their arguments about gender neutral toilets being dangerous really reminded my of the kinds of ‘gateway arguments’ that trans exclusionary radical feminists make. Usually it starts off almost reasonable sounding, but the core idea behind the objection to gender neutral toilets etc is that they don’t recognise the identity of transgender people, and in particular will often categorise all transgender women as predatory men that pose as women to enter female only spaces and assault women. It’s this logic that has led to things like ‘bathroom ban’ laws in some places in the US and it’s just really nasty.

Sooo, with that background, if these two women were to come into a library I was working in and start talking about how gender neutral toilets were unsafe, because I’ve heard that argument so many times in bad faith I can’t say I’d react much better than Ushima to be honest! (I mean I wouldn’t be like “lol, I’m a woman!” but I’ll get to that later haha). I also related to when Ushima at the end of the chapter was kind of like “my bad, I really shouldn’t have engaged but I just couldn’t help it” because I have definitely felt the same way and felt the same regret for getting into an argument that I know will be pointless but also feeling like I just can’t let it slide.

But I really don’t think that Murakami will have been writing these women to be terfs, I think it’s probably just a coincidence and he just wanted to make fun of some feminists (especially given how he writes women). And looking at it from that perspective…I don’t like it. But it’s pretty much impossible for me to separate from that context and I want to keep on liking Ushima so I guess I’m head canoning them as terfs :man_shrugging:

Onto the actual reveal…I would be very surprised if Murikami has ever met a trans man in his life what with some of that dialogue :man_facepalming: “I’m a woman! But I’m not a lesbian! I’m gay!” It’s….pretty bad. But I kind of come across seeing it as clumsy/ignorant bad rather than hateful bad so that’s something I guess. Like I think we are meant to see Ushima as a guy, and he is meant to be a character that we root for/like, so it could definitely be worse I guess.

On the whole, extremely mixed feelings about this chapter, and I expect they may evolve further as we see how Ushima is presented as the story continues.

Alright, that’s my essay done lol, on to chapter 20!


So far the book’s been perfectly calibrated to keep me reading on pace (or at least while pretending to be on pace) with the club but not actually posting anything, since I’ve found it breezy and pretty consistently fun to read, but the plot and my vague mixed impressions of Murakami by reputation make me want to not say anything while withholding judgment until I have a chance to formulate what I thought about the whole thing. (which seems impossible 'til the very end with this one)

In terms of potential things to be wary about, I was mildly negative about the sexual dynamics, but, honestly, somewhat positive about the Johnnie Walker business. Chapter 19 though I think was a lot more the kind of thing I was worried might turn up… I think as a general rule I don’t like “some characters show up for a needlessly confrontational scene where the author re-enacts an argument he wanted to have, with the character making the point he wanted to make clearly positioned as ‘winning’ in terms of the fiction” scenes, especially when I don’t trust the author enough to think that I’d be on board with their train of thought…

For me I think neither the two women nor Oshima ring true at all - like to pick one example if I picture a trans librarian involved with a library where the books were sorted based on the author’s gender, that seems like it would be very high on the priority list to fix, rather than “when we get around to it”, and if I picture women conducting a survey about access to public spaces for women, I can’t imagine a scenario where “put the women authors first” would actually be their solution. I think in a way the not-realistic feeling of the argument to me makes it easier to extend Murakami the benefit of the doubt that these are like, TERF-y definitely bad feminists and that’s the point… but it comes across more to me like the chapter is against bureaucrats and administration, and uses feminists/accessibility programs as an example. I can’t really envision a situation where any outsider coming into the library to suggest change, even if it were for an extremely valid reason, would be met positively – and I mean, the jumbo jet analogy doesn’t hold since surely jets aren’t public spaces in the same way; you usually have to buy tickets for those… It seems reasonable to me in principle to have oversight over whether spaces open for the public really are available to everyone. The thing the women are coming to the library to do seems in principle fine in my book, even if the specifics are a bad. Whereas my impression is that for the book / Murakami the thing the women are coming to do is bad in principle and the specifics are bad with the latter used to demonstrate the former.

It seemed like Oshima’s gender identity was offered as a partial reason for the hostility and quickness to assume the interlopers were just that and lacked imagination and were coming in bad faith, but that didn’t jibe for me since the hostility read as ultimately directed at their project and point of view in general, rather than their specific poor solutions and gender binary assumptions. And as @sycamore pointed out the dialogue given to Ushima doesn’t work at all…

I would honestly personally probably even go so far as to say that to me Oshima seems less a trans man character in the sense of being earnestly intended to portray that experience, and more a rhetorical device for Murakami to do whatever he’d like with. The “shares tons of extremely personal information as a trump card in an argument” aspect, and tendency to ruminate openly on what his identity means in abstract philosophical terms and not really practical everyday realities support that for me. It comes across to me like Murakami thought having a character with this identity would be interesting for the points and thoughts he wanted to express and went for it without necessarily making the character coherent enough to feel real, similar a bit to how his sex scenes can read to me like a scenario he wanted to describe, moreso than something the characters would do.

That’s not set in stone of course, since I don’t know yet where it’s all going, and I could be misreading or misremembering things, but that’s my take on it at the moment!


Yeah, I actually think you’ve hit the nail on the head here, it very much feels like this.


Very interesting to read all of the comments here! I don’t have much to add, except that I found both chapters very interesting, with the rhetorical discussions with both the library surveyors and the truck driver written in a way that made me want to keep reading. I burned through both of these chapters very quickly, not able to put the book down. I can see why Chapter 19 pushed some buttons though. That’s very understandable.


Late response, but just wanted to say it was great to see all the discussion for this section, especially with Chapter 19! I tend to agree with what you guys have been saying; the whole interaction felt pretty manufactured, I really can’t imagine anyone genuinely taking either side of that argument the way it was written. It is interesting how differently it hits reading it in the current context where arguing against gender neutral bathrooms is like… not cool? :sweat_smile: Among any number of other differences haha, so it’s challenging trying to balance where I am in the world and how I see things with something written twenty years ago, where I have really no idea what the landscape for this sort of thing was like in the US, much less Japan.

All that aside, I had no prior knowledge of this book and so had zero expectations going in of any sort of discussion of LGBTQ stuff, so as clumsy as it was it was kind of a nice surprise! Considering it’s a book from the early 2000s written by a guy who would’ve been like 50 at the time (and the way other sex and gender-adjacent things have been portrayed thus far :sweat_smile:), I absolutely didn’t assume any representation would happen so having it not only be there, but in an important character we’re intended to like without it being written off as a joke or something is… nice! Obviously it’s far from perfect, and I agree that in some ways Oshima seems more like a concept to play with than a genuinely written character, but it was still cool to see.

On a lighter note, Chapter 20 was a lot of fun, unexpectedly wholesome :blush: